Has Big Pharma’s ‘inevitable entrance’ into the cannabis space arrived?

By Flora Southey

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/wildpixel)
(Image: Getty/wildpixel)

Related tags Cannabis Canada Patent Pfizer

Pfizer, GW Pharma, Merck & Co, and Sanofi-Aventis are among the leading cannabis patent holders in Canada, says report.

As Canada prepares to legalise the recreational use of marijuana​ on October 17, 2018, the medicinal potential of cannabis has attracted increased attention in the pharmaceutical space.

According to a joint research project​ between US analytics firm New Frontier Data, and UK-based cannabis biotech, Grow Biotech, seven of Canada’s top 10 cannabis patent holders are major pharmaceutical companies.

“Big Pharma’s inevitable entrance into the cannabis space has arrived,”​ said New Frontier Data CEO Giadha Aguirre de Carcer, as the company listed Pfizer, Merck & Co. (known as MSD outside North America), and Sanofi-Aventis among the leading patent holders.

According to the report, firms have been “racing to secure protectable intellectual property” ​before Canada becomes the first G-7 country to fully legalise cannabis.

The report continued: “These patents, which would have been difficult to enforce while cannabis remained illegal, will become enforceable post-legalisation, giving the patent holders a key strategic advantage in an increasingly competitive market.”

Pfizer: In the game?

While some pharmaceutical giants may be “racing to secure” ​cannabis patents in Canada, this cannot be said of all major pharma companies. According to Pfizer, for example, which holds the second most in the report, these 14 patents are not a priority.

“Years ago, we investigated a class of compounds for potential therapeutic value in treating cancer pain and inflammatory paint,” ​a Pfizer spokesperson told us.

“Our work in this area was confined to the lab, never tested in patients, and eventually discontinued. We have abandoned our patents in this area,” ​the spokesperson added.

Canada has made significant advances in preparing for a growing cannabis industry. The country’s first cannabis-specialised contract research organisation (CRO), Santé Cannabis, launched last month​ in Quebec, to offer clinical research services to the pharmaceutical, biotech, and cannabis industries.

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